Saving Humanity: It Takes a Village

Category: Life & Society Topics: Homelessness Views: 1090

Have you ever had a homeless person watch you eat? If you have, then you know that it can be one of the most degrading experiences. But what is degraded by such an experience is not just the self-esteem or dignity of the people involved, but the general integrity of our human essence.

Think back, if you can, to such an instance. Maybe you were sitting in a KFC, gorging yourself on a three-piece white meat combo and side of coleslaw. With fingers greasy and covered with flakes of batter, you probably failed to notice the disheveled man sitting across the restaurant floor. You weren't close enough to catch a whiff of his body odor, a stench that would have been strong enough to foil your plans for completing your meal. You also weren't close enough to be in earshot of his stomach growls that he couldn't have suppressed with even his best efforts. No, you missed him altogether.

But had you been aware of his watchful eye, you would have noticed him stealing a glance at the movements taking sustenance from your plate to your mouth. Sure, it's a stretch to call KFC sustenance, but to a homeless person, simple crumbs can seem like gourmet cuisine. Had you been aware, you could have almost heard his mind working, thinking thoughts such as: "I hope this man leaves some meat on those bones. I hope he leaves his plate sitting there on the table so I can get a little something for my time spent here."

It's a pathetic scene to consider. It is so inhumane that it can almost be compared to a dog, sitting by his master's table, waiting for precious morsels to fall into his domain. It really doesn't get much more inhumane than that.

Unfortunately, scenes such as this play themselves out across America, across the world, day after day. And day after day, good God-fearing Muslims fail to recognize their existence. Or if Muslims are aware, they fail to see how close they come to such needy individuals on a daily basis. But this is the challenge of living in a community as opposed to simply existing in the midst of a society.

Not that long ago -- and in some parts of the U.S. this may still be true -- it might not have been uncommon for townsfolk to know the neighborhood drunk or the town hobo. These were individuals who were down on their luck. They had been reduced to the temporary comfort of the bottle or to panhandling for dinner money. But at least the people knew them. In many instances, the community might have even known them by name and it was not uncommon for folks to look out for these individuals and make concerted efforts to drop them some spare change.

That is not so much the case anymore. In our ever-progressive modern societies, that spirit of communal charity is being lost. Driven from lives more normal, the homeless and the destitute flock to cold metropolises where the well-to-do seem hell-bent on the passage of civic codes that would herd these people elsewhere. Out of sight, out of mind.

This is where Muslims can make a difference. Armed with a moral code that demands attentiveness to the needs of the poor and less fortunate, Muslims can become the standard-bearers of a revived sense of community. Muslims can demonstrate that they are not locked away in the basements of their own affairs; but rather that Muslims can be integral to solving the problems that face all of society. And the more Muslims take on such responsibility, the more Muslims will be appreciated as key components to community building in America.

Ali Asadullah is the Editor of

  Category: Life & Society
  Topics: Homelessness
Views: 1090
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